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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 08:12, February 22, 2006
Smoking ban irks elderly residents
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The Washington State's tough new anti-smoking law has an unlikely opponent: a retired doctor who argues the ban is forcing elderly smokers in nursing homes to take unnecessary risks.

Dr Robert Guild, 71, says the law is forcing him and other smokers at the Maplewood Gardens Retirement Apartments some in wheelchairs and walkers to brave an ice- and snow-covered lawn to get to a structure that is far enough away from the retirement facility to meet the ban's requirements.

The smokers have dubbed the structure "Butt Hutt," and argue that it is a poor replacement to the well-ventilated smoking lounge management provided before the ban on indoor smoking went into effect in December.

"There's overhead heating, but it's very inconvenient, and there are no facilities," Guild said, noting restrooms are important for folks his age.

The state's new smoking ban, which went into effect on Decemcer 8, is the strictest in the country. In addition to banning smoking indoors, it requires a 7.5-metre smoke-free buffer around doorways, windows that open and ventilation intakes.

Guild started smoking cigars after he retired from private practice and his teaching position at Michigan State University. He estimates that about 20 per cent of Maplewood Gardens' 190 residents smoke.

He said it's irksome to be told you cannot smoke in your own home, and those who penned the clean indoor air initiative "ought to be shot." But he's willing to negotiate.

"Give us our smoking room back, and all is forgiven," Guild told the Spokesman-Review for a story in Monday editions.

Other assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and adult family homes across the state are also struggling with the law.

"I doubt that many people knew that this would exclude any smoking by people living in places like this," said Jeff Crollard, attorney for the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman programme.

Crollard drafted a bill that to allow smoking rooms in long-term care facilities, but the legislation died in committee.

Wendy Coram, clinical director of the Carlyle Care Centre in downtown Spokane, estimates that 85 to 95 per cent of residents there smoke.

The centre mostly provides long-term care for patients with mental problems. Coram said it is constantly battling people who violate the fire code by smoking in their rooms. But the other option is to smoke outside where there is no shelter.

"You drive by here at night, and you'll see little 80-year-old ladies bundled up and smoking," Coram said. "Not a healthy situation."

Source: China Daily

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